At a work session in July, 2016, the Madison County School Board committed itself to “positive communication with MCPS students, parents, staff, and the broader community.” Communication involves listening and as part of listening to our various community partners we conducted an online survey through the polling company/Women Trend in November, 2016.
We are quite pleased that nearly 700 people responded to the survey including 304 parents or guardians of MCPS students and 95% of our teachers. Thank you so much for caring enough about our children to give us your opinions about the job we are doing.
The data collected by the polling company and their analysis is available here. We think it most important, however, to share our impressions of that data and analysis. Here are the most important things we think we learned.
First, overall satisfaction with our schools is not as high as we would like it to be. In the words of the polling company: “School satisfaction exists, albeit with minimal intensity.” On a scale of 1-10, residents, parents/guardians, and teachers each gave our schools an overall rating of 6 and staff a rating of 7. We are not satisfied with that and are committed to increasing satisfaction with MCPS. We are pleased that more than half of residents, parents, and guardians and two thirds of teachers and staff, who know the schools best, are proud of the school system. We are encouraged that 88% of teachers and staff agree that their “school colleagues are committed to doing good quality work.” This suggests a solid foundation upon which to build our efforts to increase satisfaction.
Second, we were pleased to learn that county residents, parents, and guardians are “well-versed in how to locate information about Madison County Public Schools.” The survey surely increased our awareness of the importance of the district’s websites and social media presence as sources of information upon which the community depends. We will do our best to continually improve the quality of our communication through these means.
Third, we were impressed by the level of support for a Pre-Kindergarten program available to all children through MCPS. 53% of residents, parents and guardians said provision of such a program was “very important” to them and another 23% said it was “somewhat important.” Support was also strong for such a program even if it meant additional taxes, with 62% expressing support. We note that a significant number, 18%, were “strongly opposed” if the program required additional taxes.
Fourth, we are deeply concerned about relative dissatisfaction with school administration across the Board. We note that concerns about administration was 3rd among county residents of “things that come to mind” about MCPS. Only slightly more than 50% of residents were “satisfied with the degree to which the community was involved in the elected School Board’s decision-making process on items such as budgets or educational programs.“ Also, teachers and staff feel that they are inadequately supported by the School Board Office and the School Board itself. Many expressed a need for administrative changes. We hear you and are seeking to discern what changes are necessary to address these important matters.
Fifth, we have become more aware of serious matters related specifically to our teachers. The polling company’s analysis of the feedback from teachers begins: “Teachers noted that they feel largely underpaid and unsupported by the administration, and would like to see changes made by those in management in order for them to consider staying with the District.” It is troubling that 39% of our teachers have been on the job less than 5 years It may not be surprising that our teachers feel they are underpaid, but it is interesting that parents and guardians “would like to see improvements made among the teachers and staff that are hired (e.g. better pay and retention, more support).” We are obviously committed as a School Board to work with the Board of Supervisors to assure that our salaries are competitive with those in the surrounding counties with which we compete for qualified teachers and administrators. At the same time, these survey results suggest that other important issues may be a significant part of what is creating difficulties for us in retaining competent and committed teachers in the Madison County Public Schools.
Finally, the School Board shares everyone’s concerns about the accreditation of our schools. In July 2016, knowing that MPS and WYES likely would not be accredited based on testing in May 2016, the Board adopted some additional goals for the 2016-17 school year. At the top of the list was “All four schools will be fully accredited.” We believe that the programs the schools are using to improve students’ reading skills will help. Also Waverly Yowell Elementary, for the first time in several years, is providing Reading Specialist services. A “committee” of a trained Reading Specialist, the librarian, and two newly hired teaching assistants are working daily with students needing the most help. We are hopeful that this, when added to the solid daily instruction by the entire staff will bring our K-5 schools into full accreditation when the testing is done in May. We are not playing a “blame game.” The School Board stands behind our fine teachers and staff who work with the children.
Again, we thank you for the commitment and concern you displayed in responding to our survey. You are invited to study the documents provided to us by the polling company. We are aware that there may be important matters that we have missed.
The Madison County School Board